Halloween Short Story: Be My Valentine
She noticed him first when she wandered down the Library aisle looking for “The Lord of the Flies”. As she worked her way down G section, her fingers tracing down the dusty spines of the books she had a funny sensation on her nape and she turned around. He was sitting at the far end of the oblong table looking at her. She quickly turned back and continued searching for the book. Her heart missed a beat. She felt her skin going clammy and hot. Stop it Alicia. Stop being nervous and fidgety and shy.
She couldn’t help it. She knew her hair wasn’t done well today and she hated its mousy color anyway.Mom wouldn't let her use highlights or go to the salon.
She wished she wasn’t wearing this dowdy coat her mom had made her wear. It’s freezing out there girl. We don’t want you catching pneumonia.
Who’s we mom? She wanted to ask. It’s just you.
She found the William Golding and picked up the book. She half turned around once more. The cheek! He was still looking at her. He didn’t lower his head or turn it away like they do when you catch them staring. He smiled. She felt herself blush. Warm hands travelled up her neck and caressed her cheek. She was deathly pale and she knew one could spot her blushing from miles away. She walked quickly back to the Librarians counter without giving a second glance at the table. Sweat was breaking out on her top lip. She wiped it hastily and checked the book out.
It’s not often men looked at her. She knew she was dull and inconspicuous. Her clothes were terribly out of date, skirts too long and tops too frilly. She had no friends because she knew secretly they all made fun of her. She heard someone in her class referring to her as the little gray mouse once. She went home and cried. Her Mom and come into the bedroom and shouted at her. What’s up with you silly girl? Is it a man? I told you they are up to no good. They only want you for one thing Alicia and you know what that is.
She wished her mom wouldn’t barge in like that. There’s no privacy in her house. No room for herself. No place to put posters up or hide a book mom wouldn’t approve of. She knew her mom went through her things when she was at College. She often noticed things tidied up. Books stacked and her panties taken away to be washed. She had to wear those horrible granny ones which were thick and big and looked like they were made in the 19th century. She couldn’t wear proper bras. Her mom made her clothes. They were tight and squashed her breasts painfully. She saw some of the girls in the class not even wearing bras. She would often blush looking at their nipples pointing through their flimsy tops and she knew boys liked that. Her mom would never let her wear proper bras. She told they were sinful, attract men to look at your breast as if they were on display. That’s what leads to trouble and temptation.
She went home and went up to her room quietly. Her mind kept wandering back to him. He had a nice smile. He didn’t look too attractive. That was alright because she wasn’t either. He had close-cropped hair and a pale face. His glasses were thick but not too thick. He had nice smile, she remembered. His teeth weren’t straight but that was kind of cute. She giggled. Something she doesn’t do very often. She had a funny feeling around her belly button. She imagined sitting across from him and talking. Maybe he would ask her out. She hasn’t had a proper boyfriend but she had an imaginary one. The Prince. She had read a dirty fantasy by Ann Rice once. She had sneaked the book in from the Library. It was a bit too much. Not at all romantic. But they did get up to some serious sex. She had imagined the Prince making love to her. She lay there and her hands had crept down to her front. She had a curious, wet sensation and it felt good. She had opened her eyes to see her mom looking at her through the crack of the door and she almost fainted. She looked at the thin scar on her palm where mom had burnt her hand.
Never do that girl. Never give in to horrible thoughts. That’s how I got into trouble and I don’t want you to do the same. You don’t want a bastard child.
She shivered silently.
Jack and Alicia
She saw him again the week after and she determined herself to be bolder. She picked up JD Salinger and sat on the same table as him. Maybe he’ll be impressed at her literary taste. He could feel him looking at her and there was nobody else in that room. She looked up, feeling herself blush. He smiled again. She smiled back. He waved a hand at her and mouthed a Hello. She felt her heart palpitating.
She bent her head down and started reading. Half of her wanted him to walk up to her and have a hushed conversation. The other half didn’t. She knew she wasn’t ready. She’d probably stammer and sweat. That wouldn’t be a good start.
To her disappointment/ relief he didn’t come to her. She saw him get up and walk away. He had faded jeans and a threadbare wool jumper. He looked cute from behind too. She smiled secretly and sneaked a look at his tight bottom.
The only free time in the house is when mom goes to the church in the evening. She cleans the pulpits and sweeps the floor. Alicia lay on her bed reading and dreaming of her Prince. It will be nice if he would rescue her from this prison. For the first time the Prince had a face. Close cropped hair and glasses. She giggled. He beckoned her from his horse. As she ran towards him he bent down and swept her off the ground. Strong hands gripped her and placed her on the horse. She sat coyly, arms draped around his shoulders. He rode the horse and she bounced gently against him feeling his strong chest on hers. Alicia fell asleep with a smile on her face.
He wasn’t there the next time she went to the Library and she sat hunched over her book, nervously twisting her hair in her index finger. She was so immersed in the book she didn’t notice him behind her and almost jumped out of her skin when he bent and whispered in her ear. Hello.
She jerked her head up and found his face so close she could see the acne scars. His glasses misted from her breath and he removed them and wiped them with his sleeves. She sat there looking at his puppy eyes and her heart beating wildly.
Can we talk outside?
She nodded dumbly and gathered her books. It was cool outside and she walked hugging her books to her chest. She felt comfortable with him. Not as nervous as she thought she would be. They exchanged names. He was Jack. He talked mostly, in a soothing tone as if he understood her shyness. She nodded and listened. He was a medical student. His parents lived in another town. He lived alone in a converted warehouse he had modified. She should come around sometimes. He had hundreds of old books she would like. It was nice talking to him. She didn’t feel odd. She wasn’t sweating which was a relief. Can he have her phone number? She shook her head violently.
It’s my mom. She wouldn’t like it at all. In fact she’ll go berserk if she knew I was talking to you.
He nodded as if he understood. Maybe they can meet in the Library again.
Next week perhaps. Have a coffee somewhere.
That would be nice, she heard herself say.
You’re being brave, girl. She heard her mom’s voice inside. Brave and stupid. It will only lead to misery. People will laugh at you. They'll laugh and spit on your face. You’re nothing but a slut. A whore. She felt her spine tingle.
Get away from me, mom. Leave me alone.
Alicia and Jack
They met again and a few more times. She couldn’t believe she was capable of such clandestine meetings. She felt good. She spent longer in front of the mirror. He didn’t mind her dowdy clothes or her nervousness.
It’s understandable, he said. You don’t belong there in your house. You need liberating. I’ll take care of you.
She held his hand for the first time when he said that. His grip was warm and dry. Comforting. She walked closer to him, rubbing shoulders. That night she dreamed that the Prince took her to his castle. Only it was a warehouse. He gently took her clothes off and kissed her from head to foot. Her breasts ached for his touch. He kissed her eyelids and whispered that he loved her. She felt him enter her and gasped. He made love gently, making her feel wanted.
She felt a splash of cold water in her face and woke up with a start.
You’re having dirty thoughts again girl. Her mom’s face was so close she felt her spit on her face. You’re groaning like a street whore. Get up and go into the shower. Cleanse yourself you dirty minx.
No, mom I don’t want a shower! she screamed. She felt her hair being grabbed and dragged violently into the cold shower. Warm tears mixed with freezing water droplets running down her cheeks.
She told him everything the next time. She cried like a baby. He held her close as she wept against him.
Look, he said. I’ve got something for you. She took the envelope and opened it. Her vision was blurred and she saw it was a Valentine’s card. She smiled and cried some more.
It's October, silly. Its not Valentine's day for another few months.
Its Halloween this weekend. It could be our Valentine's day. I want you to come to my place. You never have to go back to your mom again.
She was scared and happy at the same time. Her Prince has come to liberate her.
She was in a daze all week. She felt feverish and didn’t have the courage to look at her mom. She might find out. She might look at her face and know what she is planning. She hid the Card under the floorboards. It had his address and directions. It also said how much he loved her. She held it in her arms at nights, rocking gently.
Mom and Alicia
On October 31st it was snowing outside. She quietly stuffed a few clothes in her bag and hid it under her bed. She ate breakfast with mom who kept asking her if she was ill.
You look deathly pale, girl. You look like a corpse dragged out. Hope you aren’t having dirty dreams again. You should come to the church with me this evening. Pray to God to cleanse your sins.
Alicia bit her lower lip till it bled.
She felt something building inside like a volcano about to erupt.
I don’t have to listen to you anymore she screamed. I am going away and will never come back.
What are you talking you slut. Don’t ever think you’re leaving me.
Oh I am, you monster. She exploded. Her mom reached across the table and grabbed her arm. Alicia felt her face go numb as her mom hit her and her eyelid puffed up. She felt her hair being grabbed, pain expanding in her scalp. Her back scraped on the floor as she got dragged to her room. She felt a foot in her ribs and fainted as red-hot lightning struck her chest.
When she woke up it was dark. She stood up groggily and the house was silent. She ran to the door and saw it was locked from the outside. She screamed. She turned at looked under the bed. Her bag was gone. His card was gone. She felt blind panic and dashed to window. It was still snowing. She looked down and knew she could jump out, it wasn’t that far a drop.
Alicia, Jack and Mom
She ran in the deserted street. His house wasn’t far. She knew the directions by heart. Her mom must be in church. She reached the warehouse and climbed up the stairs. She was shaking uncontrollably as she knocked on his door. It was open. As she stepped in he was coming towards her.
She screamed and clung to him.
It’s all right now. He said gently. You’re here and it will be fine.
He kissed her puffed eyelids and bathed her face with cold water. He took her to a long table and sat her down.
I was coming to get you because you were running late. He said. I was beginning to get worried.
There were candles on the table. And plates laid out. A bottle of wine was opened and ready.
I made you a meal my love.
She laughed and her chin hurt.
I love you Jack. I love you my Prince Valentine. My Halloween Valentine.
He served her steak and salad. She drank wine for the first time and felt tipsy. She felt her fear vanish and her blood warm up. She wanted him to hold her. To make love to her. He looked at her adoringly.
I’ve got a present for you, he whispered to her.
Oh no I haven’t got you anything. she said.
That doesn’t matter, sweetheart. You’re here with me. That’s the greatest present I could have.
He went to the corner and brought a big cardboard box. Wrapped in a red ribbon. There was a long stemmed rose on the top. She took it and smelled its heady scent.
You shouldn’t have, Jack.
Open it. I know you’ll like it.
She untied the ribbon with trembling hands and unwrapped the gift paper. She opened the box and looked inside. The light was dim from the candles. She put her hands inside and felt about. It was warm and sticky and she could trace the contours of a face. She could feel the eyes staring out in surprise.
Oh by the way, he said, twin candles reflected on his glasses. Your mom came to see me earlier.
© 2012 Mohan Kumar
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